Raelene Castle has resisted responding to Michael Cheika’s astonishing revelation of broken relationships at the top of Rugby Australia, but she says the Wallabies have failed to fire under the departing coach.
Rugby Australia’s hellish season lurched again on Sunday when five-year head coach Cheika announced he will quit his post, taking pot shots at chief executive Castle and chairman Cameron Clyne.
He said he barely had a relationship with the pair and voiced his displeasure at a change to the Wallabies coaching structure this year, saying he never felt comfortable with new director of rugby Scott Johnson overseeing his role.
Continue reading below…
Ironically, it is Johnson who will lead the process to identify and appoint a coach by Christmas, a process that was well under way before the Wallabies bowed out of the Rugby World Cup with a big loss to England in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
Whoever comes on board will have Cheika’s comments echoing.
“I think it’s no secret that I’ve pretty much got no relationship with the CEO and not much with the chairman,” Cheika said.
“Scott’s a lovely bloke and I get on fine with him but I’m sort of not really into that type of thing (layered coaching structure).”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 20, 2019
Castle wouldn’t respond to Cheika’s remarks, instead issuing a statement thanking the 52-year-old for his dedication before outlining the importance of Johnson’s review into Australia’s failed campaign in Japan.
However, in a separate interview with reporters, Castle described the World Cup outcome as “incredibly disappointing”, before taking it a step further when assessing the Wallabies’ modest returns over the last four years under Cheika.
“No, I don’t think anyone would think that we have been satisfied with the results. I think it has been a very challenging time.”
She defended the retention of Cheika following a widespread review last December, saying the information gathered had proved invaluable as RA seeks to not just find a quality replacement but also improve other parts of the high performance pathway.
“We looked at the (coaching) options that we had available to us but could not just think about Rugby World Cup, but think about the longer-term options for rugby in Australia,” Castle said.
“We made the decision in appointing Scott Johnson into that role and to think about, yes, the improvements he could bring to the program in the short-term but definitely with the long-term strategy as well.”
Glasgow-base Kiwi Dave Rennie is heavily favoured to be the new coach because of his excellent reputation and close relationship with Johnson, who was director of rugby in Scotland last year.
Cheika’s bitter departure words continue a 2019 dotted with bushfires for RA to put out, alongside the inferno which is the litigation battle around the torn-up contract of former star Israel Folau.
In other news:
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now